The South Pennines landscape is one of stark contrasts:

Vast tracts of open moorland intersected by steep, wooded valleys; the areas in between softened by a subtle patchwork of hamlets and fields.

The landscape today is a combined result of geology and human endeavour – enabling the visitor to trace the history of the South Pennines from the ice age to the industrial revolution. 

The award-winning Watershed Landscape project has a wealth of information and resources about this important habitat, its wildlife and the many creative people who have been inspired by the South Pennines.


Natural England describes the South Pennines as: “a landscape of large-scale sweeping moorlands, pastures enclosed by drystone walls, and gritstone settlements contained within narrow valleys.”

Although the South Pennines is not a designated AONB or National Park, it is an important landscape. Marsden Moor is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of an international Special Protection Area.

The South Pennines is home to many species, some of them rare. Look out for…
Birds: curlew, dipper, dunlin, golden plover, kestrel, lapwing, meadow pipit, merlin, red grouse, ring ouzel, skylark, snipe and of course our very own twite.

Mammals: fox, hare, rabbit, shrew, vole, stoat, weasel.

Plants: bilberry (great in a pie), bog asphodel, cloudberry, cotton grass, crowberry, deer grass, heath bedstraw, mat grass, sheep’s sorrel, sundew (digests insects), tormentil, wavyhair grass.

The Twite, or Pennine Finch as it’s sometimes called, is the South Pennines’ special bird.  It is unusual because it has a diet consisting entirely of seeds, even when feeding its young. 

Numbers have dropped by 90% over the last 15 years and in England it now only breeds in the South Pennines, where it is resident from March to October.  Thanks to the work of the Twite Recovery Project (a partnership between Pennine Prospects, Natural England and the RSPB) vital foraging sites in the form of hay meadows are being restored and maintained, and breeding pairs are now hopefully on the increase.

Although rare, the twite is a sociable bird, nesting in colonies and gathering in large flocks in the autumn with other finches after their chicks have fledged.  Listen out for its distinctive metallic call “twai-eeet”!



THE SOUTH PENNINES TRUST is an organisation that acts as a champion for the South Pennines and seeks to raise its profile as a destination and area of strategic importance.

The aim of this site is to provide a functional tool for the 7 million people living within an hours’ drive of the area, to explore and enjoy the breadth and depths of the South Pennines. We used funding from the South Pennines LEADER programme, which supports community projects, to set up the site. The funding for LEADER is being made available through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union, and is administered by Pennine Prospects in the South Pennines. 

In addition The South Pennines Trust manages the Watershed Landscape project and the Local Distinctiveness project which both aim to show what a special place the South Pennines is.

If you would like to help us build, strengthen and improve this website, then please use the feedback button on this page to get in touch.